I’m really enjoying the new book, The Loser Letters , by Mary Eberstadt. It’s fiction; it’s satire; it’s the attempt by a recent atheist convert to explain the problems of atheism to the upper level echelon of new atheists.
One of the elements I’ve observed is that atheists tend to be much better at deconstructing religious faith than they are are responding to criticisms of their beliefs/convictions. But critique of another’s ideas doesn’t establish one’s own. When theists put atheists into a corner about one or more of their ideas, atheists can learn how difficult it is to prove the view. How, for instance, does one prove there is no god? It is easier to criticize the beliefs of theists than prove the tenets of atheism. And it does little good for the debate to return fire by attacking the theists. Eberstadt’s points deserve refutation by proving them wrong or by establishing the contrary.
Letter three in Eberstadt’s book is about good works, and her fictional letter writer, A.F. Christian pleads for three things:
1. Focus on the bad works of Christians and pastors and the Catholic Church and the leaders. There’s plenty to feast on there.
2. Avoid getting into discussions of the good works of Christians, for their record is amazingly good.
3. Avoid getting into discussions of the charity work of atheists, because the story is not nice.
A deadly quote: “we Atheists are much better off emphasizing what the other side has done wrong rather than emphasizing anything we Brights have done right” (40).
For the bad, she mentions Catholic priests and liberal Protestant offerings. Kooks like Warren Jeffs.
Why do this? “because the actual evidence for claiming that Atheism will do as much good in the world as Christianity and other religions is embarrassingly against us” (42). What, she ponders, can the atheists say about the godless atheism at work in Nazism and Stalinism? And claiming they were religious underneath all that godless violence is like thinking underneath Paula Abdul you will find a fat bald male teetotaler (her analogy).
The fact is, the Dulls take care of the sick and care for the poor and build hospitals and their “god” tells them to, while our theories and sciences teach us that such hospitals don’t have Darwin’s name on them and we, the Atheists, “don’t want the kind of world in which Nature’s rejects, the sick and the old and the frail of any sort, flourish anyway” (51).
In brief: “their highest authority, Loser, tells them to care for the sick and weak, whereas ours, Nature, tells us the opposite” (51).
Tell Hitchens, she says, to knock it off about Mother Teresa.